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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Remember what mama said…

… choose your friends wisely and don’t forget where you come from.

And that’s the advice offered in this op-ed in today’s The State in Columbia, S.C. Written by Ernest L. Wiggins, a mass comm professor at USC, he claims that the problem with some of today’s high-profile journalists (and probably those not so visible) and their tendency to lapse ethically is that they are too removed from the people for whom they write — the readers.

It’s not that the Alboms, Braggs, Barnicles and Blairs of the news world are preternaturally unethical or lazy. I believe it’s more that they are removed — and not just by physical distance — from the people they are paid to serve. They might be distanced by worldview or lifestyle, background or disposition — as removed, I might add, as many of our elected leaders are from their constituents. And that’s not where the similarity ends.

Wiggins cites all manner of problems stemming from that distance:
• loss of interest, connection and respect for readers
• desire to craft stories for their own amusement or to impress equally removed colleagues, or (worst of all) to curry favor with the newsmakers they cover
• tendency to succumb to the smarmier practices of those they cover, relying on innuendo, rumor and sound bites, rather than solid reporting
• tendency to be seduced by wealth or power

Let's hope this is the rare exception and not the rule. But perhaps it also means taking a gut-check to ask ourselves who—and what—we are writing for.

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